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November 15, 2005

Ivan Ljubicic

SHANGHAI, CHINA, R. FEDERER/I. Ljubicic 6-3, 2-6, 7-6

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Ivan.

Q. You always get very close to him, or even you have match points. Do you think it's more a psychological problem for you or is it a technical problem, and which one?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I don't think there is a problem actually. I played some good matches against him. Every match is a different. In Rotterdam, I was 4-2 up in a tiebreak, but he came up with very good play. In Dubai, was three sets, but I didn't have many chances. And today I felt like for the first time I was the better player on the court, and that's why it feels frustrating because, you know, some shots just went out that they were not supposed to. Suddenly he started to serve aces, which he didn't all match. Well, that's what makes difference. And today it was very close match. Again, I say it, I feel really upset because I felt I deserved this one.

Q. Can you describe how you were feeling during the first set. It looked like you had problems moving.

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, I had problems with him because he was playing just unbelievable. I think he played really high-class tennis in the first set, but I was also expecting his pace is going to drop because he dropped against Nalbandian, and I know he's not in top form physically. So I was just waiting my chances, and they came, and I took them. I just think that that was a little unfortunate to lose the serve in the beginning of the third set. I served an ace first point, they call it out. I didn't put any more first serves in that game. I lost the serve, and I broke him back for 5-4, I had 6-5, 15-30. I mean, the more the match was going on, I felt better and better. But first set, your question was the first set. The first set was just unplayable. If it was 6-1, it was deserved 6-1 because he was just that much better in the first set than me, I think.

Q. What was your reading then on his physical condition?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I mean, he's not struggling. I just think that he's not top fit. He's not sharp as he usually is. And we saw that he used some hot cream in the beginning of the third just to try to wake up his muscles, and it worked. But it's not like you can take advantage of it. You know, just because if he plays the way he can play, it's really very little you can do. But, you know, I just tried to play my best tennis. It was almost enough. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

Q. You said it's not a key match for you to qualify for the semis on day one, but today you were almost there. How do you think about that?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I mean, as I said, I was pretty relaxed going into this match because I felt like nothing was depending on this match, and I don't think it does. Obviously, the things would change if I could manage -- I mean, if I managed to win this one, but I didn't. So it stays the same way as I always was saying. It's going to be the key match of our group, it's going to be me against Nalbandian.

Q. If you play Roger on Sunday, which is possible, is there anything you'd do differently?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Not really. Not really. I think I have better chance in best-of-five in case we get there. But he's almost there. I think maybe he is already in semis. But I still have hard, hard, hard road in front of me, really rough road. Well, we can talk about that on Sunday (laughter). But it's a long way to get there.

Q. You're famous for your strong serves. In the third set, game five, he broke your serve by your double-faults. Generally your first serve is 50%. How do you think about your first serve today and your performance?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah, I don't think I served well really. Well, it helped me a couple times, but not what I needed. That's when I called it, the serve didn't help me, didn't work well. I was really struggling to find the rhythm on this court, I don't know why. The double-fault on 2-All, I mean, you know, I just tried to make it short, to bounce it high, to have a high bounce. It was just too short. Bad luck. But, I mean, as I said, it's not easy to serve on this. I don't know why. I can't explain. But seems like the net, it's too high and the court, it's too short, but I know it's not (smiling). But he's one of the best returners in the game. I mean, I don't know how many aces I had. But I think I had a few. Generally, you know, you can hit 20 aces, but if you don't hit an ace on breakpoint or an important point, then you can throw it in the water. Doesn't help you much.

Q. During the match, had you ever thought you could win the match?

IVAN LJUBICIC: After I broke him in the second all the way till the end. I felt I was really the better player on the court. I thought I can win it. I mean, I saved match points on 5-3, match point on 5-4, but I was still believing that if I can get it through, I have a chance. And I had even 3-0 in the tiebreaker. I still believed that I had a chance. I had until the end really. If he didn't pull out that passing shot at 6-4, I would have a serve on 6-5. It would still be open match. So I believed. I really believed that I had the chance. And, unfortunately, nothing happened.

Q. During the match, I'm sure you felt fine in China, even though you're playing against Roger Federer. There's so many fans supporting you. Did you expect that before you came here?

IVAN LJUBICIC: No, I didn't expect such a huge support from the Chinese crowd. But it was fantastic atmosphere, I have to say. Really almost full crowd. They were supporting nice shots, not one guy, which I really, really appreciate. What can I say? I hope they going to support me against Nalbandian because it's going to be probably one of the most important matches in my career so far. And maybe another match against Roger further on. But, as I said before, it's a long way. I'm really enjoying the crowd because it's a really, really nice atmosphere out there.

Q. How do you feel physically? At the end of the season, you played quite a lot during the last two months, Davis Cup, in tournaments. How do you feel today? Do you think you're totally fit?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah, I don't have physical problems, but obviously I'm a little tired. It's a good format. You have one day off between matches. I don't think it's going to be an issue really. Even if we had such a long matches and hard matches. But, you know, if you play best-of-three and you have one day between matches, it shouldn't be an issue really, no matter how tired you are.

Q. How difficult did you (inaudible) your game against Roger Federer? He has big forehand, big mental side. How difficult?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I mean, it's difficult. He's No. 1 player in the world. I mean, it's tough. You don't know where to go. Sometimes you think the backhand, it's weaker side, then he makes points off that side. Then you go on the other side, he kill you also on the other side. As I said before, we were talking two days ago about tactics against Roger. There's no tactic against Roger. You just have to play the best you can. You have to really believe that your choices are right choices and just go for it and hope that something good is going to happen. Well, I think generally I played a really good match. Didn't look like there is a big gap between us again, and I'm really pleased with that.

Q. When you heard yesterday that Rafa had pulled out, then Andre pulled out, what was going through your mind firstly as a fellow competitor in the tournament, but secondly also as a supporter of tennis who I guess wants to see everybody fit at the top events? What were you thinking?

IVAN LJUBICIC: First thing I was thinking that I was unfortunate that they were not in my group. I mean, that's true (smiling). Then, second, obviously I'm really disappointed because we know that our sport is hard. The season is 12 months. It's really difficult to keep up fitness all year long. And all these top guys are injured here and there. You know, I was saying the same thing in Paris. I just think it's really unfortunate that all these guys are injured at the same time because all year long you have these Masters Series, big tournaments, one guy is missing, two guys are missing here and there. This end of the year is just terrible. They're all injured at the same time. I think it's just unfortunate because I think it gives also different view I think from the media and from everybody on this Masters Cup, unfortunately. I was saying to my coach yesterday, you know, now I'm not going to get such a big credit playing here as much as I should because, you know, No. 13 guy gets in. You know, it's not such a big achievement to get here, unfortunately, which I thought it was going to be for me unbelievable, and it is of course. But, obviously, now that this Masters Cup, it's not - unfortunately I have to say, I know I shouldn't - but it's not what it was supposed to be. I would like to go back to Coria's interview yesterday, what he said, the court it's fast. I mean, if you go back to 10 years ago, the players in the Masters Cup were Sampras, Stich, Becker, Ivanisevic, Krajicek, these guys. Now we have French Open indoors. I think they should just shut up and play and be happy because the conditions out there are really slow wherever you go, even in the Wimbledon. A few years back, Hewitt and Nalbandian played Wimbledon final without playing one volley. I think they should just be happy, I mean, the way tennis went. If they find difficulties playing on some court, you know, then it's unfortunate for them. But I think they are really advantaged all year long.

Q. Do you think therein lies a possible solution to the whole problem, in that if there was more fast-court tennis going on, there would be fewer rallies?


Q. There wouldn't be so much exertion on you guys.

IVAN LJUBICIC: I think governing bodies, they made research. I think they realized that the people like rallies. That's why they went in last three, four years. They slow down everything, balls and courts. This is what you get. People still like aces. People still like volleys. But, you know, you have less and less on that. I mean, if you like points of 35 rallies, then you get it. I think it's just not fair that just one type of player is advantage. I think we should have very fast courts, very slow courts and everything because we are different all of us and not one type of player should be advantaged.

Q. Do you think it exists an ideal surface for everybody or not?

IVAN LJUBICIC: No, of course not. Of course not. Because it's impossible. We are all different players. We have slow courts, fast courts. And I think we should all have our chances, our opportunities to play well on our favorite surface. You know, now there are no fast courts. Nowhere in the world. Just tell me one tournament that the court is fast. Absolute none, zero. And I think that's not fair for us who are serving good and for maybe some other guys who maybe deserve a place in top rankings because they have good serves, they play aggressive tennis. It's just not happening.

End of FastScripts….

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